The Horoscope

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Chapter 10 Kyoko's Story

Day three came, and not much better than the last. The battery in his clock had died, incapacitating the alarm. He awoke instead to a wet, soapy, half-naked Nori with a toothbrush in his mouth poking his shoulder. His eyes opened to complete shock. What time was it? How had Nori woken up? What had happened to the boy? His hair stuck out in every direction. There was a comb in one chunk and soap suds lingering in the rest. It looked like he had just survived a dog grooming explosion.

"Chichi," he started, voice distorted from the toothpaste, "I can't reach the cereal, so you have to make me breakfast."

"What happened to you?" The father inquired, rubbing his eyes as evidence for the reason of his slow reactions. "You're all wet."

"I took a shower in the sink," Nori answered, but it was entirely not understandable because of his mouth's obstruction.

"Hmm?" Saburou asked, through a yawn.

Nori ran off, so he reluctantly followed, slowly, eventually reaching the bathroom. Nori spit out his mouthful of minty foam while Saburou looked around in stunned astonishment. The floor was soaked. Puddles of water lined the sink's edges, and one had made it as far as the toilet lid. A stream of soap characterized the mirror, and his shampoo lay sideways, open, dripping into the sink.

Looking back to the dinner chair he had used to get high enough, Nori explained, "I couldn't get the shower to turn on, so I washed my hair in the sink."

"Oh…my." The father was speechless, shocked, and still waking up.

Nori had even more to say, though. "Then, I combed my hair, but I can't get that part." He pointed to the back, the only inch of his head that didn't seem to have been wrecked yet. "But you need to get me breakfast," the boy informed.

"Nori-kun," his dad muttered, hardly living, "What's wrong with your uniform?"

"It was dirty." Nori looked to the corner where his clothes from the day before lay in a pile.

"It's soaked and crumpled in the corner," Saburou stated the obvious to inform his own drowsy mind. "You only have one Nori-kun. What will you wear?"

Both father and son pondered deeply the solution to this new problem. Nori was, of course, the one with the answer, but he wouldn't share his idea, oh no. Mischief in his eyes, the boy simply darted off to some other room. Slowly following behind again, the dad pulled Nori out of his box of belongings already clad in dinosaur underwear and a Superman cape.

Carrying the boy to the table by the same cape, Saburou set him down with a bowl of cereal and the command, "Eat," grumbled with the grouchiness of lusting after his pillow.

"Why is there no sugar?" Nori inquired, whining a little.

"Complain about that some other day, Nori-kun. We don't have time this morning. What time is it?"

Nori shrugged an adorable 'I dunno,' already completely over not having sugar in his breakfast. One glance at the clock, however, assured the adult that they were running late again. He left the table to find something for the boy to wear. There wasn't anything really appropriate for a school uniform, but the best he could scrape up was a white t-shirt and some black pants.

Setting them aside for Nori to put on when he was done eating, he decided to try doing something to calm the rage of a head of hair. There wasn't too much yanking, crying, and screaming as Saburou braced himself against the chair to pull out the knots, but there was plenty enough. Finally, the new father wiped the sweat from his brow and gazed pridefully at the almost tidy styling job.

After two seconds of applauding himself over the small accomplishment, Saburou snapped back into the rush. "Okay, put some clothes on," he hurried Nori away from the table even though his cereal was not nearly finished.

"But breakfast," the boy pleaded as his head appeared through the neck of his shirt.

"We don't have time."

"You need to pack me a snack," he remembered to remind when his dad handed over the backpack.

A blank expression crossed the man's face. A snack? When he wanted one, he bought it from the break room vending machine. He couldn't expect his six-year-old to do the same in primary school. Frantically, he searched through drawers and shelves that never got opened otherwise. He returned with an expired, rock-hard, high protein, sugar free, fiber bar. Nori wrinkled up his nose, and for good reason. Saburou wouldn't want to eat it himself.

Still, the boy accepted it, somewhat reluctantly, and brought out the next point, "Oh, and my homework!"

"You have it in your bag, right?" Saburou tried to assure.

"I didn't do it."

Remembering how he had pushed it off the night before and how it hadn't been completed, the man sighed, "Forget it. It's not important this time."

They then made it to the door, where Nori once again struggled to tie his shoes. Since he just couldn't seem to get it, the father took over. There the boy took the opportunity to admit, "I…don't know how to write my name."

Almost caught by surprise at that because the boy had claimed such knowledge, Saburou smiled when he recalled that Shimizu, Takeshi-kun had just suddenly changed his name and wouldn't know the new one. He grabbed a sticky note and quickly scribbled out Kyoko, Nori. Then he handed it to his son.

"Like that. Practice it a little today," he concluded, ushering Nori from the house.

It was improvement. Of course, they were still late, they hadn't done any of his homework, Nori wouldn't be able to learn to write his name without step-by-step instructions for the kanji, and his hair was in reality still a mess. But it was improvement. Then, they realized Saburou was still in his pajamas, and they had to go back.

Still, they arrived at the school in better condition than they had the day before. A sigh of relief escaped the father's lips as Nori changed from his shoes to his school slippers, and then they burst into his classroom. Of course, the whole world turned to look at the late arrivals. Both the student and his father melted beneath the disapproving glance of Matsui-sensei. Defeated, Nori obediently slinked over to his seat in silence. Then, the teacher signaled Saburou to come over.

Me? He gestured to his chest in confusion. Why would the teacher want to talk to the father? He wondered to himself. It didn't seem logical to him, but he still approached the lady's desk. She started organizing papers, sorting files, creating piles…making the man nervous. Why did he feel like he'd failed a test? Finally, she turned her attention to him.

"Kyoko-san," she began, addressing him quietly, "do you know the key to a child's education?"

He stared at her blankly. Oh no, a pop quiz, even worse. The man was unsure of how to answer. What was she expecting to hear? Did she even want a response, or simply to stimulate thought? After five years of no schooling, the rusted gears in his mind took their time turning.

Matsui-sensei gave the answer to save time. "Their parents. A student whose parents show little respect for the school will themselves learn to not respect it. It is your responsibility as the father to emphasize the importance of education in order for your son to truly benefit and learn."

Saburou followed her words closely, nodding with each of her points. He was in complete agreement. The parents' attitude could really affect that of the child. He was good on that matter. After all, he had enrolled Nori in school right away.

Then, the teacher continued, "You can't keep bringing him in late."

"My clock broke," the man explained, suddenly feeling obligated to justify their tardiness as if she was in charge of him.

"Such an excuse!" She exclaimed in sarcasm. "I suppose I'll be hearing 'The dog ate my homework,' a few times. Please Kyoko-san, I'm asking you to take this seriously."

"I am Sensei, why do you think I've put him in school already even though he's only been at my house since—" He stopped abruptly, and then defended, "I don't have to justify myself to you. He's here now."

"That clothes is nowhere near the appropriate attire," the teacher pointed out when Saburou turned to leave.

You don't think I know that, almost disrespectfully left his mouth in response, but a strong restraint prevented such unkindness. "I'll get him a uniform," the man conceded, the tone of his voice showing all the stress of the last two days, "just probably not this week."

He once again turned back to the exit, determined to get to work before they fired him for showing up late twice in a row, but the lady called after him. "Just keep in mind that Kyoko-kun has to be the first priority in your life…" She continued speaking, but he was no longer listening. Hearing the boy called by that name struck something within him, ripping back open the carefully concealed bundle of parenting responsibilities. Kyoko-kun. It was like a little version of himself.

When the end of this sudden burst of crimes came about, his schedule was back to normal, and there was still a child in his house, he would no longer be able to deny it. He scratched at his head in bewilderment. What would they do to pass evenings after school and work? He inquired of the door before him. He needed to buy more kid friendly foods, and snacks and games…and movies. He cursed the fates for not allowing him this week off, and then tuned back in to the zealous teacher.

"…It's the sacrifice you make when you decide to have kids."

Finally opening the door, he left. He hadn't decided to have a kid. The boy had just appeared, and for that he deserved more credit, more time to adjust. He'd get it right sooner or later…probably later. He tried, he thought with a sigh.

"You're late." These were the first words of Saburou's coworkers when he entered the lab.

"Don't mention it," he grumbled back, clearly upset as he slumped into a seat in the office where all his shift's teams were meeting that morning. At least he had arrived before that started.

"Why are you in such an off mood?" Yamada wondered curiously, seeming like he knew a secret bit of information he was trying to provoke an opportunity to reveal.

"It's my week off."

"We've all been working extra hard this week Kyoko-san," Suzume reminded, leaning casually against a countertop. Everyone was seeming tired this morning.

"Yes, but it's my week off," he simply repeated rather distantly. It was easy to tell something had prevented him from adequately putting himself together before leaving the house. His sloppily tucked in shirt hung out on one side, not to mention it was one button off in front, and if one looked close enough, they would notice his socks were inside out.

"I heard two of the officers talking about Kyoko-san's son," Yamada pointed out cheerfully. "Say, would that have something to do with how you're acting?"

"That's why I have this week off," Saburou said one more time before realizing they now all knew he had a child and were in utter shock. When the looks between them of, Kyoko-san has a kid? didn't fade away, he questioned, "Is it really all that unfathomable?"

"You have a son?" Kuro asked, being the first to recover his speech. He seemed less stunned than the two women, more like it had been unexpected that he hadn't been informed, and less like it was some sort of revelation.

"Since when?" Tamura demanded. The half-American giant was almost intimidating when she got excited like this. It was like she could eat either Saburou or Yamada in one bite. She was harmless, but still Saburou cringed as she approached. "Why haven't you told us? You've never ever mentioned a child. And now suddenly, he's appeared. He can't possibly be a new kid."

"Do you have to make it seem so impossible?" The father muttered under his breath.

"It is impossible!" The three over dramatic coworkers reminded simultaneously.

"You don't even have a girlfriend," Suzume mentioned.

"I can't remember that you ever did," the small man added, like they expected he'd remain a hermit his entire life.

"It's my personal life," Kyoko defended. "I wouldn't tell you if I did."

"Stop avoiding the question!" Tamura ordered forcefully as she bubbled with expectation. "Tell us about your son!"

Startled by her imposing presence, the man froze and then caved to her will, admitting, "I don't know much about him."

"Y-you…don't?" The girls stumbled out. Tamura seemed confused and Suzume, saddened.

Even Kuro brought out, "He is your son, Saburou. You ought to."

"At least tell us something," the giant chirped up again. "How old is he?"

"Six years."

This time all four responded in shock, quickly followed by Tamura's, "Six years and you never once told us?"

Throwing his hands up in innocence, he replied defensively, "I met him for the first time Sunday."

Of course, after a couple seconds of letting that sink in, everyone wanted to suddenly know, not the boy, but the story. He had never known the boy, but had he known about his child? Was this just as much a surprise for him as it was for them? Or had he always been aware that he was a father, just never with the desire to meet the son? Whatever the content of the account they were about to demand, it was going to change their opinion of Saburou forever.

Compliantly, he did not wait for them to ask before commencing the explanation. It was in his last year of college. He was young, he was stupid, and—believe it or not—he was socially adept enough to almost be considered popular, just not generally among the girls. There were parties, chances on the weekend to escape school and get drunk. His friend had somehow gotten an invite to the hottest college party of the year, and he managed to get them both in for it.

There was this one girl there, hot, and every guy in school was dying to be with her—at least everyone who was someone. She was part American. Her grandfather had been a blonde haired, blue eyed, World War II soldier boy, and she looked like him a lot. That was neater back then.

Shimizu-san. Thinking back, she was probably a slut. Everyone wanted her, and she knew it. If he had gotten it from her, certainly the others, more handsome, smoother, with more to offer her, had as well. After all, that night, Kyoko was just one drunk, reckless boy with a good introduction from his friend, and for some reason, her lowered inhibitions made her into him.

"Then, we graduated," he stated suddenly, cutting out a chunk of the story. "I never spoke to her after that night for close to five years. She called me up out of the blue one day:

"'Kyoko-san, this is Shimizu, remember me?' She said, and it took me a couple seconds to recall. As she continued, however, her face came back to mind. 'We had a couple classes together in college. Anyways, I tracked you down because there is something that I really should have told you many years ago…That night, at that party…I got pregnant, Kyoko-san. You have a son, I just thought you should know. You don't have to do anything, or anything like that. I just feel better that you know…'

"Dumbfounded. That's the only word to describe the way I silently stood there not listening as she closed up our conversation and ended the phone call. I never said a word, not even good-bye. I wouldn't have known what to say. To go so suddenly from the stunned high of an old crush calling, to the shock of being a father left me speechless, and I just stood there, lost in thoughtlessness, listening to the open line on the phone still pressed against my ear for several minutes."

Somehow he had come to enough to find her number on Caller ID and call back. He had only one thing to ask: Are you kidding me? When she confirmed her seriousness, he was returned to the paralyzed state of shock. "Oh," he had muttered, slowly returning the phone to its hook without a further word. Being the truth made the revelation all the worse. He then had to let it set in for a while, figure out what it would all mean for him. Once the daze began to clear up, the panic gradually crept in. He called her back.

"What do I need to do?" He had asked immediately. "Do you want us to be married? We could rush it if you'd like. I have a job. It's not much, but it's something—"

She had interrupted with a laugh. "It's been five years Kyoko-kun, and it wasn't high school. I've got a real steady relationship with someone, and I already told you, we don't need you to do anything."

"Support. What about support? Should I send you stuff on a regular basis or something? I'm sure we can work something out—"

You could almost hear her smile, still amused by his frantic persisting. "We're all right. We don't need anything."

"Should I visit on like weekends, or holidays, or—"

"We live in Yuni," she supplied abruptly. The shocked young man repeated the name of the small mountain town in confusion. He didn't even know where that was. She quickly continued, "Don't bother coming all the way up here. It's too much of a trouble."

"Then, why'd you even tell me I am his father? Now that I know, I'm certain I have to do something. I'll feel wrong if I don't."

For a while she was quiet, thinking on what he said before spitting out her full address that Saburou had to scramble to write. "Takeshi's birthday is next week. He'll be four. I'm sure he'd love to get something."

She hung up then, leaving Saburou alone with his musings. The poor boy spent the entire rest of the day out of focus, still coming to the realization of everything he heard. In the end, however, Takeshi's mother wouldn't allow the news to effect his life. Soon, all was as normal, with the rare exception of a birthday or Christmas gift, but she would always insist nothing more.

"One day, which was rather out of the blue again," the story teller continued, nearing the end of his tale, "she called, told me she'd finally decided to marry her live-in boyfriend, and that they were off to his hometown in Australia for the honeymoon. She wanted me to watch him for the week. Bizarre, but I didn't protest, since she's never asked much of me as a father. Sunday morning he arrived at my house. Sunday night I got a package of all his things along with a note that said, 'Sorry, I lied. I won't be coming back from Australia after all.'"

A gasp, perfectly coinciding, came from both girls.

Yamada hardly waited a couple seconds before teasing, "So in just two days, Japan's lamest bachelor becomes Japan's lamest bachelor with a six-year-old!"

"Don't go there today, Yamada-san," the man warned his immature coworker. "I've been through a lot already without your incessant pestering." Then he muttered, "and the boy's not even misbehaving yet."

"It was pathetic anyways," Kuro supplied as a side point.

Largely excited, Tamura ran up to her current obsession clapping. Throwing her arms around him and squeezing him a huge hug, she commented, "Congratulations! You're a father! Now tell us about your child."

Once she released her grip, Saburou searched for the best way to describe. He reached down to Nori's height and began, "He's about this tall, dark brown, fluffy hair, got lots of energy. He's rather easily distracted, but…he notices everything."

Glances spread through the group as thoughts began to develop. Some, imagining his cuteness, never got past, How kawaii! While others concluded with a shrug, Sounds like a kid. Those who really knew the man realized, The boy resembles his father. After all, Saburou had noticed that his son notices everything. No one would have the chance to respond, though, as the description itself was interrupted by their supervisor entering the "meeting" with a very strong cup of coffee.

"All right crew, I just talked to the police captain, and he briefed me of the night's progress. Unlike you lucky, lazy slobs who get to go home, forget their job's stresses, and sleep through the night, some of us have to work, making sure the suspects don't flee the country before we know who they are. It's been a long week, we're swamped, and the officers haven't gotten any information from their suspects. You five better have some good news for me because I have three more crime scenes to send you out to."

There was a collective moan. Three more? They couldn't handle what they had already. Would they have to call in other shifts? No, the night crew was just as swamped; therein being the reason Kyoko and Yamada had been assigned to the late-evening Konatoya case. Was it so bad they needed to recruit teams from neighboring precincts to help? Only, they had no idea the problem had a common thread so widely spread throughout—not just the city—the nation.

From amidst the grumbling murmurs came one idea that stood out. "What if there was a common line that related all the crimes?"

All thought over the possibility as if it were a fantasy, dazing off into a dream of an easy solution…but they all brushed it aside. The cases were far too different. An attack by a mob, a golf course double murder, a professional sniper shooting…how could any of it be connected? It was unrealistic, wishful thinking, so they moved on, reporting what they could.

Yamada scooted closer to his conversation topic and laughing stalk of the day, giving the man a rough elbow to the side. Saburou woke with a start to, "Wake up sleepy brain. You can't let your baby keeping you up at night be an excuse unless you're on paternity leave."

"You would make me come back to work through it anyway. And what do you know about kids?"

"I watch my nephews all the time. That's more than you can say. You couldn't even watch kids for fifteen minutes while their parents were being questioned…" The immature coworker continued to go on, but the words were unheard to Saburou. Skilled as he was at fading from the real world, the man found himself in the past without even trying.

Three kids, five, eight, and ten. One girl. And it had been his responsibility to entertain them in the lobby, since the television was coincidentally broken that day. His first mistake had been to think the kids wanted to be entertained in their current situation. Still, he tried and ended up failing to interest them in forensics. The other time—a young boy shouted loudly, throwing both pieces of the toy and kicked his shin, leaving a large, blue footprint—well, they stopped assigning him to watch kids.

He decided to avoid that part of his past and ignore Yamada instead by listening to their boss. Others continued to ramble on about the details of their own cases. Just when he was about to fall asleep again, the boss called out to him, inquiring of his cases.

Shooting up into alertness, Saburou straightened his shirt as best as possibly with the way it was messed up and replied, "I only have one. They all asked me to organize the files, paperwork, warrants, evidence, and behind-the-scenes stuff for their cases." Then, he mumbled under his breath, "Since I wasn't supposed to be here anyways. But, as for the one…"

The sound of his phone ringing interrupted any description he could have given. His boss and coworkers sighed but allowed him to answer. On the other end of the line was an extremely freaked out Carli who had looked his number up in the phone book again. This time, though, the phone call wasn't about Nori.

"Okay, I'll be right over," the man promised her, hanging up the phone. Turning to those in the meeting, he explained, "Whoever tried to kill them is serious. They made another attack at the hospital. One of them was run down by the police. I need to go check it out."

Of course, he was permitted to leave, Yamada calling after him, "Don't forget to bring your paperwork to keep you busy!"

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